Trenchless pipe renewal – the sensible alternative for the preservation and modernisation of the underground lifelines.

Germany has 188 billion cubic metres of water per year at its disposal – the basis of life for all human beings, the economy and nature. It is made available via a pipeline network of 544.000 km and transported away again via a wastewater network covering 594.000 km. For cities and communities, this water pipeline network is one of the largest and most important municipal assets. But, over the years, the networks are starting to show their age. Numerous pipeline systems, many of which were built in the post-war years, need to be renovated or even completely renewed, according to the experts of the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW) and the Pipeline Construction Association (rbv). The technical service life of pipelines is usually between 50 and 80 years. Every pipeline system is subject to a continuous ageing and wear process, which must be counteracted with appropriate maintenance and renewal measures. 

Damaged pipelines are the main cause for water losses
Let’s take the pipe network in Bavaria as an example. The Bavarian State Office for the environment (LfU Bayern) gives information of its initiative “Look at the pipes” on their website, stating that about 10 to 15 % of the municipal pipelines (based on 115.000 km of drinking water and 105.000 km of waste disposal pipelines) will have to be renovated and renewed in the coming years, due to their age. A similar picture is emerging throughout the whole of Germany. According to a current study by the DWA (German Water Management) from 2020, up to one fifth of the sewers in the public sector show damages that need to be repaired at short or medium notice and 15% of the sewers have already exceeded the age of 70 years. The situation is similar in the drinking water sector with its 544.000 km of pipes. According to the Federal Statistical Office (StBA), the annual water loss in the public water supply amounted to 5,3 % (2017) of the total gross water supply in Germany. In an international comparison, Germany is in a very good position according to the figures of StBA and records significantly less water losses than its European neighbours, France, Bulgaria, Great Britain and Hungary. Worldwide, however, drinking water is considered a scarce resource and its easy availability is one of the most important driving forces for poverty reduction and increasing economic power. Within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015, water was therefore declared a particularly valuable resource.
The future is trenchless. Why dig trenches when there are alternatives?
Direct benefits with trenchless pipe installation and renewal for the public, communities and nature:
  • Preservation of valuable surfaces and the environment
  • Reduction of jobsite disruptions
  • Reduction of traffic obstructions and congestion
  • Significant time saving for construction work
  • Protecting nature through Co2 emission reduction
  • Preservation of the pipeline routes
Investments in the pipeline network are always worthwhile
Hence it is becoming increasingly important for suppliers and communities to exactly know and evaluate the current condition and development of their own network substance. The percentage value of water loss is a reliable indicator for this. In order to reduce it and secure the asset value of the public pipeline networks, their strategic preservation is increasingly becoming the focus of communities, cities, planners and utility companies. Two small communities in Siegen-Wittgenstein show us what a difference this strategy can make. With regular investments in its pipeline systems, the Erndtebrück community was able to reduce the water loss to 2,4 % and at the same time increase the asset value of the pipeline network. The importance of better management of the pipeline networks in the future is also made clear by the community of Bad Laasphe. According to a local media report the small town lost 69.000 cubic metres of water per year on a pipeline stretch of 140 km due to hidden leakages. Two thirds of these pipelines are more than 40 years old. Since April 2020, the community and the waterworks have countered this undesirable development and hired staff for regular maintenance, saving costs amounting to 120.000 Euros that way. These two examples clearly show that every investment in the maintenance and modernisation of the pipeline networks is worthwhile in order to guarantee the constant supply of high-quality drinking water and the and standard. 

Since 2006, the German water industry's modernisation strategy has been supported by the federal government. In the comparisons, key figures from five performance characteristics are collected – the so-called 5-pillar concept of the water industry: safety, quality, sustainability, economic efficiency, customer service. Every year, around 1 % of the public sewer networks in Germany are being rehabilitated. The average age the public sewer network in Germany is a projected 36.9 years. This is simply not enough to improve the condition of the sewer network in the long term. Let us take another look at our Bavarian example: Approximately 10 - 15% of the networks in Bavaria, i.e. 14.250 km of drinking water pipes and 13.125 km of sewage pipes, need to be replaced and renewed. Private homeowners are also asked to ensure that the water pipes on their properties are maintained. In the federal state, sewage pipes in the private sector are 2 to 3 times longer than those in the public sector. In order to actively involve homeowners in the process of maintaining the pipe network, special initiatives such as “Look at the pipes” by the LfU Bayern provide information showing the importance of future investments and necessary measures. 
Huge potential for pipe bursting worldwide
The potential for pipe renewal in the public and private sectors can be scaled up across Germany and internationally, as similar situations are emerging worldwide – especially in the industrialised nations. For cost and environmental reasons alone, it will not be possible to develop this potential in the medium or long term using traditional civil engineering. It is vital to show communities, utility companies, planners and homeowners economically and ecologically sound alternatives. This is why trenchless technology will play an important future role, in order to be able to renew the large quantities of damaged water and sewage pipes in urban and rural districts in an economical and resource-saving way and with significantly shorter construction times and minimal traffic disturbance. The most popular method for doing so is pipe bursting.

Pipe bursting is a simple and ingenious method for the underground renewal of overaged pipes having typical damages, such as cracks and incrustations, which lead to water leakages, but also to increase the capacity of the exisiting pipeline. The old pipeline is broken apart and radially displaced into the surrounding soil, while the new pipe is pulled into the existing bore path in the same work step. 

Adjustments to the pipeline capacity are also possible with pipe bursting, by pulling in new pipes with the same, smaller or larger diameter. The result is a new pipe in the existing route with a service life of 80 to 100 years in perfect static conditions and considerable time and cost savings, compared to the open trench method. Depending on the task, two different methods can be applied: dynamic pipe bursting with GRUNDOCRACK offers advantages when renewing pipes made of brittle materials. Static pipe bursting with GRUNDOBURST is predestined for the renewal of service pipes made of brittle or ductile materials, but the repair of partial damage by means of lining is also possible. 

For more than four decades the pipe bursting method has proven itself worldwide as a reliable and safe alternative for the renewal of old pipes made of almost any material. Initial study results show that this technique is already being increasingly applied for pipe renewal and the market is growing worldwide. Find out more about pipe bursting and other trenchless construction solutions on our website or contact our expert Thorsten Schulte, 

As a leading manufacturer of trenchless construction machines for new pipe installation and pipe renewal, we offer future-oriented technology solutions for your success.
Did you know,
that the costs for wastewater and water allocation fees go down, when pipes are renewed? Pipe renewals are long-term investments in the maintenance of the pipe network, as they have a direct impact on the service life of the pipes. Therefore, the investments can be directly allocated to the length of the service life of the renewed pipes. This direct saving of costs is not only felt by the communities and municipalities in their public purse, but also by the population in their annual water bills.

Please contact us

Thorsten Schulte
P +49 (0)2723 808246 thorsten.schulte@TRACTO.COM
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